So what is a ghost kitchen?
While the term “ghost kitchen” may make you think of a haunted chef’s galley, the truth is quite less sinister than that.
Ghost kitchens are virtual restaurants with no servers, dining room, or customer facing establishment whatsoever.
But on the interwebz and on the food delivery apps, they’re thriving.
Ghost kitchens serve meals that are not ordered or eaten inside a physical restaurant. Instead you order your food through apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, or with the restaurant’s own website. Online, these ghost kitchens don’t look any different than those with the typical brick-and-mortar operation, but that is where the similarity ends.
For example, where I live in St Charles Missouri, I own a ghost kitchen called Burger Underground. My ghost kitchen that has its own digital footprint and appears on the popular delivery apps, but Burger Underground doesn’t currently have a storefront. It’s a delivery and take out only service inside Novellus, which is a completely separate restaurant I own. Each restaurant has its own form of operation but run simultaneously in the same kitchen.
Types of Ghost Kitchens
Because the concept is still evolving, there isn’t an exact definition of a ghost kitchen. There are multiple terms that are interchangeable with ghost kitchen, like virtual restaurants. Here are a few common ways ghost kitchens are formed.
- Launching virtual “spin-off” brands
There are some entrepreneurs that are launching virtual, delivery-only restaurants, and they’re leveraging their current kitchens to do so. Burger Underground running inside Novellus is a perfect example. Even as you read this, we are getting ready to launch our next ghost kitchen concept and start franchising Burger Underground to other restaurants who are interested in the virtual kitchen space.
- Using a shared commercial kitchen space
These type of ghost kitchens are not located within a typical brick and mortar restaurant. They are typically utilizing a large multiunit commercial kitchen and operating as delivery only. Several separate brands may use a shared kitchen simultaneously, or there may be multiple in-house concepts developed and operated by a single restaurant group.
- Renting out restaurant kitchens
Some restaurants are renting out their own kitchens to accommodate ghost kitchens that need space and equipment. This model helps create an additional revenue stream for restauranteurs that are still recovering from Covid related loss of business.
Why ghost kitchens are here to stay?
While it is difficult to put a definitive date on exactly when the first ghost kitchen opened, I think most people would agree it was the COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated their growth.
Some restauranteurs got into the ghost kitchens space to get a grip in the market during a time when opening a restaurant with a full capacity dining room would have been unthinkable. Even after the world slowly returns to normal, restaurants and customers alike have adapted to the virtual restaurant ecosystem. The digital ecosystem isn’t going anywhere, so it’s likely that ghost kitchens are here to stay.